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March 08, 2017

Fuel on the Fire: New Sparks of Faith in Southeast Asia

By Tom and Candice, workers in Thailand

It’s with joy that we share about a new team that has formed in spreading the gospel in a restricted access country in Southeast Asia! Although the RMM team is based in Bangkok, God has consistently led us to a neighboring country since the beginning of our work here. This year, it’s been thrilling to see God orchestrating the formation of a national “sister” team and to bless that team in any way we can.

There is a registered church in this country and good things are happening within the church. However, leaders tend to exert a great deal of control – in part because the church needs to limit their activities to stay in the good graces of the government. In the last year, our friend Lan began meeting with several men, who like him, were frustrated by the lack of opportunity to work within the structures of the church. They began praying and talking about what they could do independently.

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February 06, 2017

The Unreached Are Within Reach

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By Lydia Gingerich, RMM staff writer

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” Matthew 28:19

Two thousand years later, this task remains unfinished. Out of the 16,560 people groups that make up “the nations” of our world, 6,698 are still unreached—with little, if any, access to the Bible, Jesus Christ, or his followers. These groups make up 42.1% of the world’s population—roughly 3.1 billion people—living predominately in North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.1

Joshua Project defines an unreached people group as one “among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize without outside assistance.” For these people to ever hear about Jesus or understand his love, followers of Christ need to purposefully go to them. Rosedale Mennonite Missions (RMM) has made these people groups a priority—to engage with and show them the hope of Jesus Christ.

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August 01, 2016

Three Generations of Faithfully Following God’s Call

By Lydia Gingerich, RMM staff writer

To protect the safety of certain family members who have chosen to follow God into places of the world that are closed to the gospel, the names in this story have been changed.

What is missional living? The traditional answer to this question usually includes moving across an ocean, learning a new language, and serving under a mission organization. But this is only one depiction. Missional living is defined in thousands of different ways by people all over the world as they choose to follow God’s call to join him in his work — each one unique, important, and beautiful.

While we must ultimately look to God for what missional living looks like in our own lives, it can be helpful to examine the stories of others to learn from and gain inspiration. Many examples of missional living can be found in the Bible, throughout history, and in the lives of those around us today.

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July 06, 2016

Returning Filled: 15 Years of Service in the Muslim World

By Lydia Gingerich, RMM staff writer

John and Cecelia Aslan* recently returned to the U.S. after 15 years of living in Central Asia and the Middle East where they faithfully worked with RMM to spread the word about Jesus.

As I spoke with the Aslans, Cecelia told me about a local custom that was sometimes challenging to fulfill. Where they lived, if someone dropped off a plate of food at your house, it was expected that you would return the plate filled, again, with food. Her neighbors were so generous that she often found her kitchen full of empty plates needing to be filled and returned. John and Cecelia have spent the last 15 years of their life investing in friendships, teaching and learning new languages and cultures, and working with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). But they have not come back empty. Their lives have been filled with long-lasting relationships, fulfillment in the work they have done, and a rich love for beautiful cultures.

When they left for Central Asia, their four children were 17, 15, 11, and 9. Living in a Muslim country was something that had interested Cecelia for a number of years, but they both agree that it was the call of God that caused them to make the move. John said, “What we were doing in life was good, but we felt like there was something more for us.” A family who had recently returned from Central Asia was staying with them at the time, sparking an interest and tenderness in the Aslans for that part of the world. In 2000 they followed God’s call, and went.

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May 02, 2016

Parting the Seas: Using the Arts to Reach the Middle East

By Esta Felder*

“Faith takes a vision, turns a dream into a mission.” – James Ward

I became a Christian when I was 12 years old. I grew up on a farm in Montana with my parents and four siblings. My father was a cowboy and made a living doing various jobs. My mother worked as a full-time secretary. I grew up attending church but accepted the Lord at a camp in the mountains. Of course it was a profound change in my life. It was the start of a journey that has taught me that one thing is necessary, only one. I’m eternally grateful to rely on God, every moment, one day at a time.

I knew exactly what I wanted to do early on in life—move to New York City and become an actor. But I also felt called to full-time Christian work. How would God bring these things together? I had no idea, but I was sure it would happen.

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March 31, 2016

Looking at the Gospel Through Buddhist Eyes

By Jewel Showalter – From the April 2016 Beacon

William and Rebecca,* RMM workers in East Asia, are often tempted to discouragement. For the past 18 years they’ve worked among a particularly untouched mountain people group. They’ve learned two very difficult languages and clung to a variety of visas as they’ve labored to be present in this harsh setting.

They first entered the region in 1998 on a student visa, and for two years they lived at the university and worked to learn the local language and understand the unique Buddhist worldview. They prayed and reached out in friendship.

There was little interest. People were puzzled or amused by their attempts to share faith. Sometimes God moved to heal, but more often not. One of the people who came to faith in the early years and led a small house group, died of congestive heart failure—in spite of their prayers and medical assistance.

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February 08, 2016

Going, Giving, Praying, Promoting, Sending: How We Can All Support Missions

By Hans Shenk – From the February 2016 Beacon

It was a small card—white, grey and green—slipped into the fold of the programs for the two services RMM planned at CMC Annual Conference 2015. It was a detail in a busy weekend. It asked attendees if they were interested in receiving RMM’s monthly newsletter, the Mosaic, or in supporting RMM in any of five categories. The five categories were Going, Giving, Praying, Promoting, and Sending.

We didn’t get any of them back. We thought about it, decided it must not have been effective, and moved on. But then, in a department meeting, we were struck by the five categories on the card, and how many people within CMC have already been supporting RMM in the ways outlined on the card, and how grateful we are to have such partners.

We spoke to some of those partners, and have collected several of their stories here. We hope they serve as an inspiration and a reminder of what God can do, and does do, through his people.

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December 23, 2015

Worth It? REACH as a Gap Year

By Hans Shenk – From the January 2016 Beacon

“Gap Year” is a term born in the 1960’s to describe the practice of young people taking a year away from their studies to develop in ways that lie outside the realm of traditional education. A typical gap year is spent abroad, experiencing other cultures. Students also often spend their gap year serving—developing attitudes and habits of compassion.

RMM’s REACH program includes many of the best aspects of a gap year: REACHers spend the nine months of a school year away from home: three months in intense discipleship training school and six months serving God’s kingdom abroad.

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November 25, 2015

Letters, Calls, Peanut Butter, and Ruined Candy: RMM Workers Recall Their Favorite Christmas Gifts Abroad

– From the December 2016 Beacon

The holidays can be a difficult time for cross-cultural workers. Living far away from family and home communities and missing out on familiar celebrations and traditions often make workers feel lonely and disconnected. Long-term workers go through this cycle every year, and even short-term workers often deal with homesickness and sadness as they spend Christmas apart from their families for the first time.

To get a taste of what it’s like to spend the holidays far from home and the difference a gift or letter can make, we asked a few of our past and present workers to describe the best gift they received while working abroad. We’ve collected their responses below.

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November 03, 2015

Between August and May: Introducing the 2015 REACH Teams

By Hans Shenk and Ashley West – From the November 2015 Beacon

It has become a part of the organizational rhythm of RMM. Every year, on a weekend late in August, between 20 and 35 young people arrive at the Rosedale International Center with their lives packed into suitcases. Every spring, near the end of May, there’s a weekend when 20 to 35 young people carry overflowing suitcases back out of the RIC, stow them in trunks and vans, and drive away.

After witnessing the annual cycle of REACH over time, whether in person or from afar through RMM communications, it’s easy for years, stories and faces to blur together, and for the significance of what happens between those weekends in August and May to be lost. And yet, every year of REACH is unique; every team and every participant is uniquely called.

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August 21, 2015

Appropriate Technology

By Hans Shenk, RMM staff writer and Josiah, RMM worker in North Africa – From the August 2015 Beacon

Appropriate Technology (AT) is a field of study and an approach to development that seeks to solve problems in the developing world through tools and methods suited to social, economic and environmental realities. The African continent has been called “the graveyard of western technology” because of the long history of well-intentioned outsiders who provided solutions that did not adequately match local needs. In some cases, the “problem” was not considered a problem by local people, and when the outsiders left, the “solution” was neglected or repurposed. In other situations, a machine met a need, but local people lacked the training and/or resources to maintain the machine over time.

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August 01, 2015

Taste of Missions 2015

By Ashley West

The Conference Worship Team launched CMC’s 105th Annual Conference in characteristic style. Not with eloquent words to welcome the crowds, but with a heart cry of welcome to the God all had gathered to honor, singing Build your Kingdom Here.

Brian Hershberger, CMC Executive Director, offered an official welcome. Brian introduced the annual conference theme Step with the Spirit, reflecting on the importance of the Spirit’s role in the life of the believer and the differences of belief and understanding within CMC . He expressed his hope that this weekend would be a chance to not only learn about, but also to experience the Holy Spirit.

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August 11, 2014

Toward a Clearer Understanding of Church Planting

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By Nathan Olmstead

“All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).

My belief is that we have been guilty of over-thinking “church planting.” We have made complex what was intended to be simple and, in the process, have formulated an unbiblical and unhealthy view of our God-given responsibility and mandate as Christians which is to “make disciples.” My heart is not necessarily that we would remove the phrase “church planting” from our vocabulary, but that we would have greater understanding of its biblical implication.

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Getting to Know…Pablo and Judi

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Pablo and Judi have lived in Granada, Spain as RMM workers for the past six and a half years. Previously, they served in Ecuador and more recently pastored at Shiloh Mennonite Church in Plain City, Ohio. Here they share some of their heart for their friends in Spain and a taste of their daily life as expatriates.

*Note: Last names omitted and names of friends removed for security reasons.

Where are you from in the U.S. and who is your sending church? How do you stay connected with them?

In Spain when someone asks where you’re from, they mean, where were you born? For Judi and I, that’s Kentucky and Michigan, but Judi has also lived in Maryland and Virginia, and I’ve lived in Florida. We met in Costa Rica, married and lived in Ohio, moved to Ecuador, then back to Ohio, so we’re from a lot of places! Our sending church is Shiloh. We stay in touch through Pastor Brian and the people on our Missionary Support Team via a weekly e-mail update. We also visit the church on our bi-annual home assignment.

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July 01, 2014

Introduce the World at Your Dinner Table

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By Vicki

When I was growing up, I remember my mom making cornbread and beans and relish and a side of fried okra. Even though I was living in Pigeon, Michigan my mom was introducing her Southern heritage to me through food. Some of our dearest friends were a Hindu family who occasionally joined our family for holiday dinners. I can still remember the spicy curries our friend, Kala, contributed to our meals. Our noses would run and our eyes water from the spiciness of the dishes, but we kept going back for more because we loved it! Indian food is still one of my favorite cuisines.

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May 30, 2014

A Slowly Opening Door: Calling a New Generation of Workers to the Middle East

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By Jay Martin, Mediterranean Regional Director
Names changed and country name omitted for security reasons.

In January of this year, Rosedale Mennonite Missions organized a mission leadership consultation in the Middle East where we have been working for the past 30 years. Two RMM Board members, a CMC Executive Board member, and several other guests accompanied RMM workers and administrators on this listening tour. The aim of this trip was to reflect together about what God has done, is doing, and wants to do in this country.

We started out in the city that launched the apostles Paul and Silas on their first journey. A dear brother and his son, Zekerya and Servet met us at the guesthouse where we were staying and then took us to see their Koreanborn pastor, Jacob, and their church building/cultural arts center. Zekerya and his son Servet inspired us with their stories of God’s grace bringing them, as Alawite Kurds, to faith. The next morning we visited another one of the five small evangelical protestant churches in this city of 217,000. They have faced much opposition from radicals in the community but the city authorities have given them freedom to worship openly.

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May 02, 2014

10 Ways for Churches to Help Missionaries Re-enter

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By Candice, RMM staff writer

When a worker comes home, what is the role of the local church? Here we offer a few suggestions for how you can lend support to returning workers in your congregation.

1

Logistical support with immediate needs. Your practical help is much appreciated. Workers might need your help finding a temporary vehicle or providing a short-term place to stay. If you want, you can collect some simple household items. Feel free to ask them what practical things they need. Just like having a baby or experiencing an illness, moving back from overseas is a huge transition. Providing a few meals during the first weeks or having them over for a meal can be a significant help to a returning family or single.

2

Ask questions about their adjustment and what they miss… and listen well. Give workers a place to talk about and process their experiences and their re-entry with you. They will need your empathy and at times, a place to grieve. The mix of emotions they are experiencing are at times overwhelming.

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Notes from the Roller Coaster

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A story of re-entryBy Candice, RMM staff writer

There is a book I read when our family was preparing to leave for our assignment in Thailand called Re-entry: Making the Transition from Missions to Life at Home by Peter Jordan. It compares the re-entry of mission workers into their home culture, to a space shuttle’s “fiery and turbulent” re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. To me, re-entry felt more like a roller coaster ride. Not just the emotional roller coaster ride that people refer to (although it was that also), but the feeling of whipping around turns, plunging down steep tracks, and the disoriented dizziness you feel as you screech to a halt. To our children (Claire,10; Eliza, 8; and Silas, 5), leaving Thailand after seven years was leaving the comforts of their home and landing, off-balance, in a place where the customs were unfamiliar. It meant leaving their favorite noodle shop, the little friends they played red light/green light with, the garlicky-cooking-fumes-mixed-with-bus-exhaust that was the particular smell of our neighborhood. It was saying good-bye to a team that felt like family. Even our house itself, the mango trees, the buried pets, and the bubble tea stand down the street had taken on their particular kind of childhood significance and were hard to leave.

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March 31, 2014

Seeds

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By Josiah* From the April 2014 Beacon

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” –Jesus of Nazareth

“Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.” –David


From my earliest memories I’ve been planting seeds: first in the garden plot behind my childhood home in the city, but later on a bigger scale while riding beside my grandpa on the tractor, acres at a time. In the last few years, I’ve been learning a lot more about planting seeds, both wheat and seeds of the Kingdom, and what it means for them both to die in order to produce a harvest.

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February 04, 2014

How does a people group come to know Jesus?

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by Dan
Note: Last name of writer and country name omitted and names of national workers changed for security reasons.

The world is filled with people groups who do not have a witness of Jesus among them. How does a people group come to know Jesus? How should we be involved in “inviting the nations to worship Jesus”? This is the story of a small but mighty work of God in a South Asian country and the way RMM has participated in his work.

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November 11, 2013

Gratitude from Around the World

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Sharing a tagine among friends in North Africa

Compiled by Candice, RMM Staff Writer
From the November 2013 Beacon

RMM workers around the world will celebrate Thanksgiving in culturally diverse places. Some will eat turkey, others live in places like Thailand where a single Butterball can cost a whopping ninety dollars. Many will gather with friends that have become like family. In Spain, workers gather with Spanish friends who might be a bit underwhelmed by a turkey dinner with all the fixings. In spite of how the holiday may look different in each host culture, our workers are a thankful group. They are aware every day that God’s faithfulness is what is carrying them through. They see his hand at work in each of the countries where they live and experience the abundance of his provision every day. Many express gratitude for the host cultures and the local people that have embraced, welcomed, and cared for them. This year at Thanksgiving time, as an RMM family, we want to remember all that our God is doing around the world and in our own hearts and to celebrate together.

We asked some of our workers to share their gratitude for God’s work and blessings, and their appreciation for the cultures in the places he has taken them. Here are their responses, in their own words…

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October 04, 2013

The Great Undoing:
"From 'fat kid' to running club"

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By Joe*
From the October 2013 Beacon

It’s 6:00 a.m. and it’s raining and dark. People are huddled under the awnings of buildings trying desperately to stay dry and warm. A few have found their way into an open shopping mall that was gracious enough to allow us to use their restrooms as we waited. My stomach is swimming. I don’t know what to expect and feel like I have no business being here. Little do I know that I’m not the only one feeling that way.

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"From 'fat kid' to running club"" »

August 15, 2013

Everyone Survived: REACH Alumni Look Back at the First Year of REACH


The first REACH training: (left to right) Mim Musser, Chad Miller, Jayne, Steve Mast,
David Maundu, Grant Price, Darlene, Enos Schwartz, John Shrock, Davy Slabaugh,
Carl Bontrager, Darrell Eberly, Paul Kurtz, Eugene Kraybill

By Andrew Sharp
From the August 2013 Beacon

Paul Kurtz never said anything about digging graves when he recruited them for REACH. But here they were in Israel, spading up shovelfuls of the Promised Land to provide a final resting place for Russian immigrants.

“We learned to be flexible and roll with the punches,” Davy Slabaugh said. Davy was part of one of the first REACH teams in 1992; his team went to Israel and another team went to Kenya.

Hundreds of young people have gone through RMM’s short-term missions program since it started more than 20 years ago, serving in dozens of countries from Latin America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. And the program has a good number of “grandchildren”—although dating in the program is prohibited, marrying afterward is not, and a statistically significant number of participants have done just that.

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August 14, 2013

Everyone Survived: Update from David Maundu

We received the follow email from David Maundu shortly after Everyone Survived: REACH Alumni Look Back at the First Year of REACH was finalized and ready for publication. We were not able to include any of his comments with the original article, but wanted to make it available for those who are interested.

I joined the pilot REACH Program in April, 1992. It was our hope that our church in Thika, Kenya could start a similar program after the training. The Kenyan program which is called The International School of Missions (ISOM) started in 1999. Two of my children have now been through the training.

REACH training was one of the highlights of my life. I am thankful to God that I was given the opportunity to travel by air to a foreign country. The exposure to discipleship training was awesome. We also had wonderful times of praise and worship before every session led by our Director, Paul Kurtz, playing the guitar, assisted by Chad Miller, a fellow REACHER.

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June 07, 2013

Caught in the Crossfire Part II: RMM Workers in Nicaragua’s 1979 Revolution

By Andrew Sharp
From the June 2013 Beacon
(Read Part I here)

As the dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza crumbled in late 1978 and early 1979, RMM missionaries and Voluntary Service workers were swept up in the events. These accounts from the team caught in the village of La Esperanza are drawn from reports from the time and from present-day interviews.

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June 06, 2013

Caught in the Crossfire: RMM Workers in Nicaragua’s 1979 Revolution

By Andrew Sharp
From the May 2013 Beacon
(Read Part II here)

In 1978 and early 1979, Anastasio Somoza’s powerful and oppressive dictatorship in Nicaragua crumbled as rebels called “Sandinistas” launched increasingly violent attacks against the dictator’s “Guardia,” or National Guard. By June 1979, the seesaw violence had broken out into full-scale war. At the time, RMM missionaries and Voluntary Service workers were serving around the country, with headquarters in the capital of Managua. Those who had not left the year before were soon swept up in the events.

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April 06, 2013

What Is Going On at Rosedale Mennonite Missions?

News and Stories from Around the World.
From the April 2013 Beacon

Art and Paula Shore Return to the Field

In April 2012, Art and Paula Shore (names changed for security) returned to Canada from the Middle East so Paula could receive treatment for cancer. Art had to return to the Middle East alone at the end of January 2013, because even though Paula had completed her cancer treatments, she was still recovering, and their house overseas needed work to make it more comfortable. Paula described the house as “rustic”—cold in the winter, and with water lines that had not been reconnected after service work. Thieves had also broken in while they were away and stolen a number of their possessions. Paula said Art had discovered one of their paintings hanging in a local restaurant (the restaurant returned it) and a number of other items showed up around town.

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March 14, 2013

You’re Not From Around These Parts

By Andrew Sharp
Staff Writer

They are scattered in countries all around the globe. They struggle with new words, resolutely chew strange items labeled as food, and amuse the locals by waving hello with the wrong hand. They are ambassadors of the Christian faith—missionaries. Like bananas in a Minnesota supermarket, they are a long way from home.

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January 07, 2013

Wait, CMC Has a Missions Agency?

By Andrew Sharp
From the January 2013 Beacon

Does Rosedale Mennonite Missions still matter to the Conservative Mennonite Conference churches? Since RMM is the official missions agency of the conference, the obvious answer should be yes. But in recent years leaders in CMC and at RMM have noted what they feel is a growing disconnect between the churches of the conference and their long-time missions agency.

After years of working primarily in Latin America, RMM dramatically shifted focus around the turn of the millennium with a fresh vision to go to people in parts of the world where few if any are followers of Jesus. “Our shift was driven by what we understood to be a call from CMC,” RMM President Joe Showalter said. But there are indications of a lack of unity in that vision. The number of RMM missionaries has been slowly declining, while people from CMC churches continue to go into mission assignments all over the world, independently or through other mission agencies.

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